Joshua Clausen, Maumelle City Clerk and Republican candidate for State Representative in House District 39, is apparently using government property to campaign for office in violation of Arkansas law. Clausen’s use of government property could make him subject to a Class A misdemeanor if he were to be convicted under Arkansas law.
On February 15, 2012, Clausen used a government fax machine at the Maumelle City Clerk’s office to send in his State Representative campaign’s fundraising report to the Secretary of State’s office. Here is the finance report with the City of Maumelle and the City Clerk’s office fax number clearly imprinted at the top. Here is the official webpage for the City Clerk’s office and the office fax number is listed at the bottom.
Some may argue that using a government fax to send in a campaign fundraising report is not a big deal, but Arkansas law is very specific on using public property for campaign purposes. Further, in reviewing Clausen’s fundraising report it appears he may have broken two laws.
First, Arkansas Code is very clear of on using public property for campaign purposes:
Arkansas Code Ann. § 7-1-103(a)(3), It is unlawful for a public servant to use for campaign purposes any item of personal property provided with public funds.
You cannot use government property to send campaign e-mails, make campaign phone calls or even fax campaign reports – no exceptions.
Second, based on the time stamp on the faxed finance report it appears Clausen sent it in during business hours, making it another violation:
7-1-103(2)(A)(i) It shall be unlawful for any public servant, as defined in § 21-8-402, to devote any time or labor during usual office hours toward the campaign of any other candidate for office or for the nomination to any office.
According to Arkansas Code 7-1-103(23)(c) and 5-4-401 the above offenses are considered Class A misdemeanors and the penalties are fines up to $2,500 and/or up to one year in prison. Frankly, the chances of this matter ever going to court are very small, but it’s important to note that it is a serious offense to use public property for campaign purposes.
Clausen clearly used public property for his campaign for State Representative. It brings up a logical follow-up question: How else is Clausen using his government office to campaign for State Representative?
UPDATE: I spoke with Joshua Clausen today and got some comments about this story.
Michael Cook: Why did you use a government fax machine to send a report for your campaign for State Rep?
Joshua Clausen: “Just wasn’t paying attention, I guess. I didn’t even think about it until you called.”
I asked Clausen if he had used the City Clerk’s office in other ways for his State Representative race:
“No, I haven’t. In fact I’ve tried to be very careful. I purchased my city cell phone and have been paying all those bills and made sure to do all my campaign work outside of there That [referring to fax machine usage] was obviously a lapse and I didn’t think that one through,” Clausen said.